A rare hurricane near Europe turned the sun red

Ominous omen.
Ominous omen.
Image: Reuters/Toby Melville
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At least two people have died after former Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland’s west coast this morning (Oct. 16) as a post-tropical storm that turned the sun red as it rose over the UK.

Ophelia made landfall on the southwest Irish coast in the counties of Cork and Kerry with wind gusts as high as 120 mph, the equivalent of category-3 storm. (It was not technically a hurricane because it formed in the Bay of Biscay rather than tropical waters.)

Ophelia’s size, bigger than the island itself, shows the sheer potential for destruction:

Ophelia could still bring hurricane-force winds across Ireland and Britain.

Ophelia tears into Ireland

Ophelia is the most powerful storm ever recorded in the northeastern Atlantic and the worst storm to hit Ireland since Hurricane Debbie in 1961, which killed 15 .

Met Éireann, the Irish weather office, issued a red-wind warning, the highest level available, for the entire country today (Oct. 16), cautioning “There is a danger to life and property.” Schools throughout the country closed. The Met Office in the UK issued an amber weather warning for Northern Ireland into parts of Wales and Scotland, with gusts up to 80 mph expected.

“Bear in mind that while in some parts of the country the storm is not yet that bad, it is coming your way,” Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar said at a news conference. “This is a national red alert. It applies to all cities, all counties and all areas.”

Officials in County Waterford said a female driver was killed when a tree fell through her windshield. A man in County Tipperary died from a chainsaw injury after trying to clear a fallen tree. About 360,000 people are without power.

The storm is expected to move into Britain late tonight or early tomorrow (Oct. 17). The US National Hurricane Center, which tracks Atlantic storms, expects Ophelia to weaken over the next day and dissipate over Norway tomorrow night.

About that red sun

Many residents in the UK awoke to an unusual phenomena—a red sun.

According to BBC weather reporter Simon King, the redness was caused by the remnants of Ophelia dragging tropical air and dust from the Sahara, along with debris from forest fires in Portugal and Spain. The dust scatters the short-wavelength blue light, allowing longer-wavelength red light to shine through, making the sun appear red.